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Running remote OSCEs – An online alternative to in-person exams

Practical examinations play an important role for many university departments. This is particularly true for Life Science and Medical courses where the Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE) is often seen as the gold standard in assessing candidates’ practical knowledge. With multiple stations, circuits, sessions, simulated patients and locations they are inherently complex and often costly to set up and run. Add in a global pandemic and the need for social distancing, then the prospect of running OSCEs safely and effectively becomes a bigger challenge.

We’ve developed the eSystem to include a new module that uses video integration to provide an alternative assessment solution for circumstances where in-person OSCEs are not viable. With eSystem’s remote OSCE feature it’s possible to run some OSCE and MMI exams remotely from any location.

This could also present a cost-effective alternative to the traditional OSCE format in some circumstances. You get all of the benefits of streamlined processes and reduced complexity when creating and running OSCEs, without the need for physical stations and locations. Exam participants access the exam from their own setting, saving time and money on travel.

Participating in a remote OSCE – Examiners & Simulated Patient perspective

Each remote OSCE exam has several stages. Upon entry, Examiner and Simulated Patients [1]are taken straight to their allocated station. Here they can read any instructions, view any images and communicate with each other. They can only communicate with the Candidate during station time after the exam starts.

The exam will begin once all of the allocated reading time has elapsed.

Exam begins

The Candidate arrives and is able to communicate with the Simulated Patient / and or Examiner/s.  A mark sheet for each Candidate is available for the Examiner who can score them appropriately as the station progresses.

Once the station time is over Candidates are automatically moved to the next station and a waiting room for the next Candidate starts. The next Candidate joins once the station reading time has elapsed. This process is repeated until all Candidates have completed the station.

Taking a remote OSCE exam – A positive Candidate experience

Ensuring a positive Candidate experience is imperative. Creating a simple, easy-to-use and intuitive system for Candidates was integral in the development of eSystem’s remote OSCE module.

On the day of the exam, Candidates simply login to their exam using the details previously supplied. They’ll enter a waiting room, where they wait until the exam starts. A count-down clock displays the time left. They will see a video of themselves to provide reassurance that their webcam is working. At this point, they are not able to see or communicate with others.

Once the exam starts Candidates are automatically taken to their starting station in the circuit. If the station has an allocated reading time, they can review their instructions.

After the reading time, the station automatically starts. Now the Candidate can see and interact with the Examiner and Simulated Patient (if one is present) and can begin their exam. The exam is fully automated, Candidates are automatically moved to the next station at the appropriate time. This continues until all stations have been completed. At the end of the exam, the timer will display ‘exam finished’ and Candidates can leave.

Images & Accessibility

Where pictures are used in an exam, all participants will be able to enlarge, zoom and pan the picture to explore it in more detail. It’s also possible to share pictures, useful if a Candidate wants to explain something on an X-ray for example. It may also be useful for Simulated Patients (or Examiners if no Simulated Patient) if they have a question relating to something shown in a picture.

Accessibility options include the facility to change the font size and background and font colours. The help feature can be used to communicate with the exam administrator in the unlikely event of any issues.

Run exams in the way you need

From an exam administration perspective, several features are useful in facilitating a smooth exam process. The ability to pause and resume exams is useful if participants have connection problems. The Exam monitor feature means it’s possible to monitor the exam to check all is running smoothly and intervene if there are any issues.

In addition, you can allow observers to the exam to check it’s all running correctly and it could also be useful for auditing and training purposes. When an observer enters the exam, they’re not taken to a station, instead, they need to choose the station they want to observe from a drop-down menu. Participants in the station cannot see or hear exam observers, but there will be a ‘being observed’ icon at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen so that exam participants are aware an observer is present.

With eSystem exam management software, it’s possible to run many types of assessments.  You get complete flexibility to run exams online, remotely or on paper. Plus, you get fast, accurate results and candidate feedback reports at the touch of a button.  eSystem removes complexity whilst giving you what you need – an easy to use, insights-driven tool that will allow you to continuously improve your exams over time.

[1] If required. Simulated Patients are not a requirement for a remote OSCE, they can be run with just a Candidate and an Examiner.


Watch some of our videos…

If you would like to see how a remote osce works watch some of our Remote OSCE videos:

Get in touch

If you’d like to find out more about the remote OSCE module or how eSystem can improve your exam efficiency, talk to us. Call our sales team on +44 (0) 1223 851703 or email

Check out some of our other blogs…

5 ways to improve exam efficiency

From paper to online exams – Why now’s the time to make the transition

Case Study: UCL Medical School – Revolutionising OSCE assessments